Finding Hope in Cambodia

Cambodia holds a special place in my heart. Ten years ago, I fell in love with the people of Poipet and the beautiful children at Imparting smiles. When we first started going, Cambodia was only about 1% Christian. Over the years, I have watched Steve and Noit’s ministry grow and have seen Jesus bring light to darkness. When I am in Cambodia I feel super close to God. I can set aside the business of my life in Katy, and truly focus on Jesus.

These memories popped up today on my Facebook timeline. Last year’s mission trip to Cambodia was very special. Steve and Noit were in the process of building the Antioch school in Cooper Pott’s honor, and our team was able to see this elementary school for the first time. Steve and Noit had a special painting of Cooper hugging Jesus hanging in the entry way. I will never forget walking into the school that day, and that painting was the first thing I saw.. At first I could barely bring myself to look at it. It brought an overwhelming wave of sadness which made me want to run right out of the building.

However, after a few moments, God gave me a sense of overwhelming peace that I had never really felt before. In the months following Cooper’s death, I had watched that peace completely cover Kara and her family, but I had struggled to feel it myself. In that moment, I was finally able to let all of my doubt go, and I decided to truly trust in Jesus and the hope of Heaven. I then started thinking about the hundreds and thousands of the kids that will walk through those doors in the future and learn about Jesus’s love for them. Surely many of them would ask about the boy in the picture. I can only imagine how the story of Cooper’s life and his amazing love for Jesus will instill hope and peace in generations of Cambodian children.

Fast forward one year…….This year’s trip was very special! Our team was able to witness the vision I had come true. The Antioch school was open and full of energetic kids and teachers. We sat in several classes and watched the teachers pour into the students. We could all see God’s hand at work in these classrooms. The sadness I felt the previous year was gone and transformed into pure joy. I looked at Cooper’s picture this year and felt true hope. I can really see Cooper’s legacy raise the next generation of children in Poipet to follow Jesus and love others like Cooper did (#livelikecooper). I now truly understand how God turns ashes into beauty. I read somewhere recently that hope is like a star. Stars are amazing but you can only really see their full splendor in the dark. I now really understand what this means.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15-13

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Polite Prayers

Americans are very polite pray-ers.  We say a cursory prayer before meals and at the appropriate times in Sunday services.  We pray at the beginning of football games, at least in Texas, and we pray when our lives are spinning out of control.  But when we pray, we pray politely.  We take turns if we are in a group.  We predetermine who will pray at specific times.  The entire idea of planned, polite prayer is quite possibly not what Jesus had in mind when he commanded us to pray.  

I first had a Cambodian lesson on prayer many years ago when our team hosted a women’s conference.  Hundreds of women came to the conference.  Some came for discipleship and teaching, but many came because we offered free meals and they were hungry.  At the conclusion of the conference our American team spent a few hours washing the feet of the women and praying over them.  The first year we did this we each had an interpreter with us and so she translated our prayers to the women.  The second year we did not have translators in the room so we prayed and something remarkable happened.  The women whose feet we were washing started to pray in Khmer, the Cambodian language.  They prayed at the same time we were praying in English.  They prayed over our voices.  We could not understand each other’s words, but yet we understood what was taking place.  It was a sacred moment and one that I will never forget.

This year I had another poignant lesson on prayer but this time it was from a sixteen year old teenager at Imparting Smiles Children’s Center.   I first met Peak and his sister Ry when they arrived at the center in 2012.  Their only living relative was their mom and she had recently died, so the orphaned children were brought to Imparting Smiles.  I instantly fell in love with them!  Ry was the same age as Avery and Peak was the same age as Cooper so they had my heart from the first time we met.  Over the years I have watched these shy children become confident teens.  Ry has graduated from high school and Peak is in 11th grade.  They both love Jesus, speak English and smile often.

Last week when the team visited the new Antioch School where Peak is in English class, we asked the kids if we could pray for them.  Many raised their hands and asked for prayer and I asked team members to pray for each student by name.  In typical American fashion, I suggested that I start the prayer, team members could pray for one of the student’s prayer requests and another team member could close the prayer.  

As I began to pray I heard someone praying loudly at the same time as me.  Soon another teen began to pray.  I was startled and looked up to see what was going on and it was then that I realized that Peak had put his hand on the student that I was praying for and he had joined me in praying.  He prompted others to begin praying so there was a beautiful combined prayer being lifted up.  I knew instantly that this was a prayer that touched the heart of God.  

The last night we were at the children’s center, Steve Hyde asked the American team to get in a circle which we did.  Immediately we were surrounded by all the children and teens as well the Cambodian adults and they all began to pray.  They put their hands on us and prayed and prayed.  All at the same time!  It was a moment I will never forget.  We think that we go to offer what we can to them, but the reality is they are often the teachers.  I love the lesson that I learned about prayer and hope that as I am back in America that I will move from being a polite prayer to an unabashed, passionate prayer.  I want messy, imperfect prayers that are genuine, spontaneous and prayers that I know move the heart of God.

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Hope & a Future

Phalla Chak grew up in one of Steve & Noit Hyde’s Imparting Smiles children’s centers located in the jungle of Cambodia in the providence of Kracheh where there is no electricity, running water or dreams of a better tomorrow. Phalla’s father died when she was young and because of extreme poverty, her mother was unable to care for her.  This is a part of Cambodia where often children are sold to get enough money to feed other children in the family or even worse, left to die. It is a place where hope is not found and where despair and hopelessness are the norm.  A team of evangelists visited this village and saw the desperate situation and shared that there was a place where children are cared for and have food to eat and access to education.  Phalla’s mother brought 10 year old Phalla to the center and when young Phalla saw the playground she was instantly drawn to the center.  What little Phalla could never know at this time was that Jesus was making a way.  Jesus was making a way for this young girl to have a future and a hope.

Fast forward a decade and Phalla grew up in the children’s center with not just food, water, clothing and education, but more importantly she grew up with love.  Steve and Noit love each of the children in the orphanages and consider them their own children.  They know their stories, they listen to their fears and they speak hope and life into each of them.  They teach that there is a God who loves them and has a good plan for their lives.  This investment of truth in the lives of children who are often neglected, hungry, offered little love and no protection has been the spring board for radical change in many young lives.  

Phalla worked hard in school and graduated from high school.  Steve & Noit made it possible for Phalla to go to Indonesia to university where Phalla graduated in four years.  That time in her life was not easy.  Those of us who have traveled to Cambodia many times over the past 10 years became friends with Phalla on Facebook and often during those four years she would post about how sad and lonely she felt.  School was difficult and she was so far away from everything she had ever known.  But Phalla persevered.  She believed the words that had been spoken over her.  She believed that she had value and that Jesus had plans for her.  She believed that there was hope for a bright future.

Phalla graduated from university in 2018 and moved to Phnom Penh where Steve & Noit helped her find a job teaching local children while the Antioch School was being built in Poipet.  Upon completion of the Antioch School, Phalla moved to Poipet and became the first teacher at the school.  The Antioch School offers excellent education taught by qualified teachers in a loving and caring environment.  Students are taught in Khmer and English and additionally receive Christian education at the school.  

Visiting the Antioch School has been a highlight of this trip.  Walking into the classroom that we have been praying for and seeing it filled with children smiling and learning with teachers who were raised in the children’s’ centers is an experience I will never forget.  Phalla teaches English to junior high and high school aged students and we had the privilege to join the class while we were in Poipet.  Hearing the kids that we have never been able to speak to without interpreters, talk to us in English and beam with pride over their accomplishments was nothing short of remarkable.  Seeing Phalla dressed as a professional and leading her classroom in English lessons was evidence of a good God, faithful missionaries and a life that has a hope and a future.

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Poipet

Monday we left the beautiful resort town of Siem Reap and headed west to the Cambodian border town of Poipet which is located on the Thai border.  The 3 hour drive takes us quickly past luxurious hotels & dumps us in a dusty, trash-filled town where hundreds of thousands of people eke out a meager existence living in lean-to shanties and are always looking for their next meal.  The trash is everywhere, It is oppressive! Dirty kids running along the street with no one watching them are the norm.  Men laying in hammocks often drunk from the night before, and women cooking what they could find for the next meal.  Many move to this town to seek work across the border in Thailand.  Labor jobs that often keep them away from their children for days, weeks or forever.  Children are left vulnerable and easy prey for those seeking evil pursuits.  It is here in Poipet where I have seen Jesus on the move for the past decade.

Our Kingsland mission teams have been traveling to Poipet for over 10 years and here is where Jesus is moving on the behalf of the poor, the oppressed and the destitute.  Of course He is moving all over the world on behalf of each of us, but here in this poverty-stricken village I have had the privilege of seeing His hands work in ways that can only be described as divine.

Steve and Noit Hyde are the missionaries we have partnered with and they have dedicated their lives to serving the poor in Cambodia.  Following God’s leading they have built the Hope Center, 3 Christian schools, 2 orphanages, translated the bible into the local Khmer language and built a mind blowing discipleship program that stretches across many countries in Asia. As glamorous as this job description sounds the realities of their work are unfashionably difficult. They are raising over a hundred orphaned children and teens who have lived through unspeakable trauma. They are constantly underfunded to do what needs to be done to help and educate the poor. They work tirelessly and we come each year to stand alongside this amazing couple and help shoulder the load if only for a short time.

Yesterday our team set up camp in the Hope Center, a sprawling building in the middle of Poipet that serves as a base camp for teams of women who go out to remote villages and teach about nutrition, infant care, care of the preborn and other life giving lessons.  

We were asked by the Hope Center director, Vuthey, to teach the teams about symptoms of diabetes, glucose testing and lifestyle changes that can reverse the effects of the disease.  We have two students on this team, Kendra who is a senior in high school & Julia who is a junior at UT.  Both girls are pursuing degrees in the medical field and took the lead teaching about diabetes to the staff.

 Jesus moved in the direction of the hurting, the poor and the oppressed.  By partnering with Steve & Noit Hyde and their ministry here in Cambodia we have access to those who Jesus would touch.  Those Jesus would give attention to.  Those Jesus would heal and offer words of hope.

That is our mission here in Cambodia.  Scripture clearly teaches to “look after widows & orphans – James 1:27b”, to “love your neighbor as yourself – Matthew 22:39” & to “act justly, love mercy & walk humbly with our God – Micah 6:8”.  We want to live with this mission each and every day of our lives, but we are fortunate to partner with those on the front lines of injustice and poverty for a time each year and get to see first hand where Jesus is still in the business of performing miracles.

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Blog by Keith Caldwell

Keith’s wife Janet has been to Cambodia 7 times and has been a faithful, core member of our Cambodia missions team as well as very involved in local mission initiatives.  Keith recently retired as a Murphy Oil Executive and has joined us on the last two trips to Cambodia where he exhibited true servant-leadership to our team as well as those we came to serve.

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In Keith’s words…..

It is an overwhelming experience to serve together with brothers and sisters in Christ.  This trip to Cambodia may top all of my experiences in serving  and certainly represents a glimpse of heaven.  We joined the team at George Bush International Airport in Houston.  Men and women with various backgrounds, experiences, and gifts and as some of us were introduced for the first time, it caught my attention that at least five different church bodies were represented on this team.

It is not our church affiliation that defines or makes us but that we love Jesus and  we love  others. Thank you Pastor Omar for the opportunity to join together and serve the people of Cambodia.  Regardless of whether you were on the dental team, medical team, Vacation Bible School team or conference teaching team, each one of us was cheering for the other and ready to jump in and serve the other person.

Do you suppose that much of heaven is this?  Cheering for Jesus (raising our voices in praise) and serving one another!  Do you desire to see a glimpse of heaven on earth?  Select an opportunity and a team and share your love with that community.  It matters not whether it is domestic or international but that we serve others.

Thank you Team Cambodia 2019 for allowing me the privilege in serving with you.

To God Be the Glory!

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Blog by Charlene Herman

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It is so hard to find words to describe my experience in Cambodia. It was absolutely incredible! This was my first mission trip outside of the United States.  I’ve heard Steve Hyde speak at Kingsland about his mission work in Cambodia, but honestly, it was not until I actually visited Cambodia and saw Steve in action, that I fully understood the breadth of his work there and his passion for Cambodia. Steve, in Kara’s words, has not just a giant vision, but a God-size vision for Cambodia. It was so great to see him in action in his element,  and to serve alongside him. The Lord is using him in great and mighty ways to share Jesus with Cambodia!  What a tremendous blessing!

This was also the first time that I have ever been a part of a medical mission trip providing dental care. It was a lot of fun getting to serve the people of Cambodia and share about the hope we have in Jesus. They were so incredibly grateful, kind, loving, and hospitable.

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Our team had so much fun together and got along so well. It was great getting to know people that I didn’t know, and grow closer to those I knew. We not only got to serve the Khmer people, but also serve one another, laugh and cry together, and create unforgettable memories together. Below is a picture of us wearing our compression socks on the 35 hour trip home!

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So blessed and grateful for my husband Tom, who held down the fort at home and made this trip possible for me.

It was eye-opening to be submerged in the culture of Cambodia and experience life there among the Khmer people. I have fallen in love with the Khmer people and can’t wait to go back!

Excited to pray and see what the Lord is going to do in Cambodia.

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Blessings,
Charlene

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The Cooper Potts School Building

By Steve Hyde

Kara Potts, a member of Kingsland Baptist, serves as the point person for Kingsland’s mission trips to Cambodia. Kara has led mission teams to serve in Poipet for nearly a decade. Her heart has been to lead others to make a difference in this difficult place.

Poipet is a crowded and dirty border town wedged between Cambodia and Thailand. Human trafficking, drug trafficking and other illegal activities are the norm in Poipet. The missions ministry of Kingsland Baptist is committed to making a difference in this city. Only a long-term strategy reinforced with the gospel of Jesus will transform Poipet.

Kara and her husband Dave have three children, Avery, Cooper, and Carson. Cooper (pictured on the right) recently passed away in an accident. When we heard the news of Cooper’s death, we were devastated.

Tragedy is no stranger to the children and leadership of the Imparting Smiles Children’s homes or the Hope Center where Kara leads teams annually. We know the raw pain she and her family is feeling and we sympathize with them. Siblings of our children get sick and die, mothers and fathers have work-related accidents, step on landmines, contract malaria and often die because of the lack of medical care. The cause of death is seldom “old age.”

We are currently caring for a child with hydrocephalies (enlarged head where brain liquefies and never properly develops). Doctors have told us this child has no hope of survival. However, we choose to love him every moment he is with us.

Poipet, the third largest city on Cambodia, is a dirty and chaotic town that more closely resembles a slum. It is this place that captured Kara’s heart. As Kingsland’s missions ministry’s point person for our partnership, God continues to use Kara to lead teams to come here to love and care for orphaned and abandoned children as well as broken and battered women. Hundreds have come to Christ and thousands of lives impacted through their service.

The Cooper Potts school building was designed to stand out as an oasis of Christ’s love in Poipet. Its white walls and modern architecture cause people to wonder what is so different about this school. The difference is Jesus — unashamedly, Jesus. He is central to every day of ministry in Cambodia whether it be education, health care, helping women who feel they must choose abortion, or feeding a hungry child. It is only through Jesus that any of us have hope for the future.

In the entryway of the school is a painting that my wife Noit and I commissioned. This painting depicts the moment when Cooper was welcomed to his eternal home by Jesus. A short article written by Omar Garcia, Kingsland’s missions pastor, is translated in Khmer and flanks the painting of Cooper.

The story of Cooper Potts and how he loved and lived for Jesus will live on in Poipet. Hundreds of children will soon be enrolled in this primary school, with plans to expand to a full K-12 school in only a few years. They will be inspired by Cooper’s example.

Our school in Poipet is called Antioch, named after the New Testament church that sent out the Apostle Paul to be a missionary. This school will be staffed by individuals who grew up at Imparting Smiles and now have become teachers. They were children when Kara and Kingsland team members first started coming to serve with us. And now, these children are grown and eager to return that love by teaching in a school building dedicated to Cooper’s memory.

The legacy of Cooper Potts is one of a life well lived. Cooper loved others, moved in the direction of people in need, and was always willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus. That is why his unexpected death impacted so many people. Now, at the Cooper Potts school building, his legacy will continue to proclaim Jesus and raise the next generation of children in Poipet to follow Jesus and love others, like Cooper did.

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